Solar Load Balancing Software

Period of Performance: 07/31/2017 - 07/30/2019

$1MM

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Extensible Energy LLC
3527 Mt. Diablo Blvd. #198
Lafayette, CA 94549
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

To minimize the impact of each distributed solar installation on the grid (and hence, to increase the use of solar everywhere), customers must be able to use a greater percentage of the energy generated by their own solar panels within their own building or facility. Currently, systems within commercial and industrial facilities are poorly adapted to this objective. PV production is often monitored, but that information is seldom used by on-site systems such as building energy controls, lighting controls, storage systems, or any other potentially flexible loads within a facility. In this project, the EE Team will develop an extensible, modular software prototype to take advantage of electrical load flexibility in each major facility subsystem that will maximize local use of locally-generated solar energy. In Phase I, the Extensible Energy (EE) Team created a proof-of-concept simulation model that demonstrated significant savings in both energy and demand charges for a modeled office building with a behind-the-meter solar installation. This Phase I model employs an advanced Model Predictive Control (MPC) algorithm that simulated control of heating ventilation and cooling (HVAC) controls, lighting controls, stationary storage (e.g., a single large battery), and EV charging stations in conjunction with realistic variability in PV output. These results show savings can be achieved much more cost-effectively by varying building loads than by use of battery storage systems alone. In Phase II, the EE Team will adapt the core components of our Phase I simulation to a cloud platform to build a prototype of the Solar Load Balancing Software (SLoBS). The EE Team will develop interface modules for SLoBS which will enable the software to control multiple energy usage subsystems. EE will then conduct a field test of the complete SLoBS prototype by controlling energy usage in response to varying solar output in a real building. The proposed research fits well with DOE’s stated interest in increasing the penetration of distributed solar everywhere my maximizing local use of locally-generated solar energy. This Solar Load Balancing Software (SLoBS) will help vendors of lighting controls, building controls, solar arrays, storage systems, and numerous other technologies to identify new opportunities to offset solar variability and increase the adoption of distributed solar. There are excellent immediate and longer-term commercial opportunities for the proposed system. A lightweight, general-purpose energy optimizer like the proposed central broker would be a boon to all facilities with distributed solar installations. The EE team has the experience and expertise to develop, market, and sell such a product to key market participants.